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Vol. XXXIII No. 13, October 16-31, 2023

The Chennai Rail Museum at ICF

-- by Elwyn Brown,

Hospitality, passion and dedication in an environment called Chennai Rail Museum: that’s what comes naturally to the man at the scene – Hansel Jude Aubert, the Office Superintendent.

At the Chennai Rail Museum, Integral Coach Factory (ICF), we can find the glorious history of Indian Railways, and to add more value to it is where Hansel stands apart. His team is also extremely supportive and friendly.

Hansel’s passion can be seen in his curating of ‘Heritage Corner’; a small vintage looking room, with ‘The Guards Signal overlooking the place’. Dilapidated and scrapped condition clocks of USA, Germany, UK and India, from probably the late 1800s have been salvaged and brought from other Railway Centres, restored and displayed, not forgetting the lovely chimes of the clocks filling this room. The clocks, telephones, gate attendance punching clocks, lanterns, etc., can be delightfully viewed. These items are close to Hansel’s heart and they showcase the history of the Indian Railways.

Giant-sized steam plough. Picture courtesy: From our archives.

Model of a custom-built carriage exported to Sri Lanka. Picture courtesy: From our archives.

Working model complete with bridges, crossings, tunnels, stations and signals. Picture courtesy: From our archives.

Engine built in 1917 by North British Locomotive Company. Picture courtesy: From our archives.

Hansel also plays the part of a docent and whisks you away to the brightly coloured red and black heritage wheelset at the exclusive bogie park of the museum, the eye-catching wheelset, probably of the NSR (North Staffordshire Railway or Nizam State Railway) of the year 1939, was also salvaged and restored for a walk down memory lane.

The installation of a 1:25 scale model of the ICF’s Make in India marvel the Vande Bharat Express is also aesthetically and brightly displayed for our viewing pleasure and well explained by Hansel, who takes pride at this realistic trainset on real tracks.

On a general note, Chennai Rail Museum exhibits the gigantic Fowler Steam Ploughing engine manufactured by John Fowler in the year 1895, for agricultural purposes, a UNESCO listed ‘X’ Class Nilgiri Mountain Railway manufactured in Switzerland in 1952, a UNESCO listed ‘B’ Class Darjeeling Himalayan Mountain Railway, manufactured in USA in the year 1917, England’s hand operated crane of 1887, a Japanese electric locomotive of 1964, an overhead equipment car, BG Inspection cars, Meter gauge EMU, and various Steaming beauties, Electric and Diesel locomotives.

While walking inside, Hansel also points out to the majestically standing Scottish YG-4332 Steaming Beauty, of the year 1909, where we can view smoke from the smokestack and hear the sound of the melodious horns of the yesteryear beauty — a nostalgic feeling of past memories to every Anglo-Indian of that era. Memories would surely come flooding in!

Locomotives, coaches, steam cranes, bogies, wheels, this Rail Museum has it all. There are also two exclusive air-conditioned galleries, one called the Heritage Rail Gallery, with information of how and when the Railways started, with the display of heritage well-polished wooden scale models, and then the ICF Gallery, displaying different types of scale models of coaches made in ICF from its inception in 1949. For art lovers there is a contemporary art ­gallery, with paintings by eminent artists of Tamil Nadu and other parts of India.

Apart from this, there is a souvenir shop and a movie theatre for educational purposes to display heritage clippings of the Railways and related themes.

Smiling excitedly, Hansel also takes us on this ‘not to miss’ exciting Toy Train Ride. We get a full panoramic view of most parts of the museum; passing by artistic metal sculptures made from scrap components, glimpsing at super-hero cartoon paintings, a soothing waterfall, and finally pounding through a dark tunnel with children screaming at the top of their voices.

Hansel also mentions that there is free parking, wheelchairs for those in need, benches for sitting under the trees, a number of rest rooms even for assisting persons with disabilities, a mother’s feeding room, and other amenities to make the visitors comfortable.

The Chennai Rail Museum is located near the ICF Furnishing Division, parallel to New Avadi Road, ICF. The Museum is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday. Monday is a weekly holiday. The entrance is free for children below 3, Rs.25 for ages above 3 to 12, and Rs.50 above 12 years. – Courtesy: Anglos in the Wind.

Meet Hansel Jude Aubert

Meet Hansel, an Office Superintendent with an unwavering passion for his job at the Rail Museum. This dynamic Anglo-Indian individual dedicates countless hours to improving the museum experience and engages with visitors from all walks of life. He particularly enjoys interacting with International Railway enthusiasts who relish spending time at the museum. Hansel’s journey began in Chennai, where he attended Doveton School in Vepery until the fifth standard. He then continued his education at Campion School in Trichy. A talented sportsman, he excelled in various disciplines, including javelin, discus, hurdles, and basketball, earning a spot in the State Meet. His exceptional performance earned him the coveted titles of “Student of the Year’ and “School Head Boy” at Campion School. Recently, after a gap of 30 years, he had the honor and joy of being invited as the Chief Guest for Campion School Hostel Day Celebrations.

Hansel pursued higher education at Loyola College, where he graduated with a degree in English Literature, while showcasing his remarkable athletic skills. He received recognition as the “Outstanding Sportsman of the Year” and was selected as one of the two representatives from Tamil Nadu for the Indian University Team in Delhi. In 1994, his prowess on the basketball court led him to secure a position as a Junior Clerk in the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) through the Sports Quota. He went on to compete at the Nationals as a part of the Indian Railway Team. Over time, he climbed the professional ladder, earning a promotion to the role of Office Superintendent. His exceptional ­hospitality, patience, language skills, and interactions with international visitors, VIPs, children, adults with disabilities, and school kids caught the attention of the administration, who handpicked him to serve at the Railway Museum.

Hansel hails from a family with a rich ­history. His late parents, Wilfred and Wilhelmina, raised him alongside his brother Eldon, who now resides in Melbourne, Australia, and his sister Gretel, who lives in Bangalore. Hansel is happily married to Crystal, and they have two children. Their son, Donovan, is married to Susanna and resides in Brampton, Canada, while their daughter, Donna, is currently pursuing her third year of Psychology at Madras Christian College in Chennai. For Hansel, the Chennai Rail Museum is more than just a job – it’s a calling. With passion and a warm smile, he dedicates himself to salvaging, curating, displaying, and preserving the rich historical artifacts of the Indian Railways for future generations. His genuine love for the museum extends to all visitors, including his fellow Anglo-Indians. – Courtesy: Anglos in the Wind.

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  1. Sreebhoo cultural academy says:

    Very useful

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